Sunday, September 19, 2010

All the Trimmings

Remember this handsome handyman? This is Hubby working away on the new baseboard trim for the basement some weeks ago with his nifty rented mitre saw from Home Depot.

Now, I want you to brace yourself as I am about to show a "before" picture illustrating some pretty gruesome trim that we have guessed was installed and painted in the early 1990s. It is indeed teal green and I will remind my readers that this is an impossible color to paint over:

The original project here was to paint the living areas in the basement, which as with most reno projects, spawned many evil offspring projects. We decided that since the floor was carpeted and the trim was green and ugly, that we would pull it out entirely and replace it with some fresh trim. Thinking this would be both easy and inexpensive, we chose to do it ourselves.

After literally months of hard work, I am pleased to show off an "after" photo of the same space below:

Trim is painted "Chalk Grey" by C2, walls are "Gossamer" also by C2
and the new carpeting is Boone's Crossing in
"Picket Fence" from CarpetOne

As I mentioned, we thought putting in the new trim would be a job that we could complete in an afternoon, start to finish, and that did not end up being the case for us. As with a lot of DIY jobs, we didn't fully take into account the "learning curve" involved in doing a project that you have never done before. Below is an outline of what was involved in case you too are new to this type of work and are considering doing it in your own home. This was something that if your time and skill is limited, you might want to look into hiring help. 

  • Consult parents, handymen and the internet to "learn how" to do it yourself
  • Remove existing trim
  • Buy trim and tools: 2 trips to Rona - select samples, purchase MDF baseboard trim and transport home in small Mazda (you will also need a coping saw, hammer, level, square, nail sinker)
  • Paint trim (2 coats)
  • Attempt to complete installation using hand tools, abort mission
  • Research and rent compound mitre saw - 2 trips to Home Depot
  • Buy caulking, caulking gun, nails and wax filler
  • Do major cuts with power saw and minor touchups with coping saw
  • Level and nail in trim and then do touch ups to cover nails, joints and gaps

Material costs:

$120 trim
$  20 paint
$  50 tools and materials
$  36 saw rental               


30+ hours @ $20/hr = $600
($20/hr for our time is a pretty conservative rate! Yours might be worth more or less.)

Amount of trim completed:  96 linear feet

The Pro Said...

In comparison, my quote from a professional carpenter in the area who specialized in trim work came out to $2.10 ln/ft to supply and install, which would have put me more in the range of $200 - $250 for the job.

I know that there will be handier people than myself out there thinking that there is no way that this should have taken so much time, but we rate ourselves as "moderately" talented and as I mentioned, the big thing was lack of experience, especially in making the mitred cuts on the saw. Since we enjoy this kind of work, the time-in wasn't such a big deal, but in reality, it may have been unwise to waste so much time on this when we could have hired someone to do it for a fairly reasonable rate.

If you are going to try this for the first time, here are our words of learned wisdom:

  • The trim we purchased had quite a few grooves, though less than some styles we saw at the store. It was a mistake for beginners to tackle such a complex pattern. The cuts had to be more exact and it was harder to cover mistakes. Buy something that looks pretty plain if you are a newbie.

  • For a small job like this, rent a mitre saw. You will get the use of an excellent quality saw for about 1/3 the price of buying one of the low-end ones available. We should have known better than to try tackling this with a hand saw!

  • Buy at least two extra lengths of trim, but don't paint them. If you need them, they're there for you, and you can paint them and go, if you don't use them, you can return them. We ended up making enough mistakes that we had to use our extra pieces.

  • Get the right nails the first time! We bought finishing nails and then realized that there were special nails for this kind of work and had to go back for those. Ask at the store before buying.

  • We thought MDF was easier to work with than wood because it is less likely to split when you are nailing it into the wall. Since this was a basement, it worked out fine, but I probably wouldn't install it into the main part of my home though as it didn't seem as durable as wood in terms of holding up to wear and tear.

DIY Rating: 1

Seriously consider hiring this job out. 
A pro would have had it done in a matter of 2-4 hours. 
It was finicky work and took us beginner handyfolks a lot longer than planned.

If you can get help from an experienced family member or friend 
who can show you their technique and help you learn, do it. 
It would have made a big difference in our frustration level.

PS. Golden star of appreciation and congratulations to Hubby who put in so much effort and whose work, despite all these challenges, actually turned out looking great! A high place in Heaven is being reserved for him!

1 comment:

  1. My congratulations to Hubby as well. It looks like a job very well done.


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